The government kicked off a training of national and county government administrations under the new subsidy programme targeting 12 priority counties ahead of the expected March rains.
The distribution, which comes as farmers prepare for planting, is aimed at improving food security in the country, which is key to President William Ruto’s administration, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said on Friday.
The first phase targets 2.1 million farmers in the targeted counties, he added.
Speaking when he opened the workshop for the officers who will directly deal with the distribution at the Kenya School of Government, Mr. Gachagua said they will ensure farmers get the fertiliser directly without going through cartels.
The officials included deputy county commissioners, cooperative officers, chief officers and county agriculture officers from the 12 pilot devolved units.
“The Kenya Kwanza Administration has prioritized subsidizing agricultural production as one of the ways of increasing productivity and bringing down the cost of living while making our nation food Secure. We have to make sure the fertiliser does not go to cartels. It must reach the farmers ahead of the rains and the planting season,” the DP said.
The 12 pilot counties include Narok, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Trans Nzoia, West Pokot, Migori, Kakamega, Bomet, Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi.
It is expected that at least 2,149,760 farmers will benefit from this programme in its first phase of implementation.
The Deputy President said the counties had been identified because they are the nation’s bread baskets.
While Kenya requires 52 million bags of maize annually, production stands at 40 million bags.
This forces the country to import 12 million bags to cover the deficit, which is also expensive for most families.
President William Ruto opted to increase production through subsidising fertilizer as a sustainable way of food security.
The subsidized fertiliser, which will retail at Sh3,500 down from Sh6,000 per 50kg bag, is being transported to the National Cereals and Produce Boards across the target counties and will trickle down to the wards and locations through farmers cooperatives.
The programme is being jointly implemented under a multisectoral framework bringing together Ministries of Interior and National Administration; Agriculture and Livestock Development; the National Treasury and Economic Planning; Co-operatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development; Investments, Trade and Industry.
Mr Gachagua said the National Government Administration Officers (NGAOs) will be the primary implementers of the programme in collaboration with other actors at the county level. This is the reason the officers from the national government and devolved units were invited for the workshop.
“We realised that the previous subsidy programmes have faced numerous challenges. These include inadequate coverage of farmers, long distances for fertilizer access and more importantly, lack of accountability in the distribution.
To address these challenges, the Government will distribute subsidy fertilizer only to farmers who have been registered by use of an e-voucher system that will ensure traceability and full accountability of the subsidised fertilizers,” the Deputy President said.
The government has been registering farmers across the country through assistant chiefs and chiefs.
To access the subsidised fertilizer, farmers are required to register and pay via their mobile phones.
Purchase of the fertiliser is through a short code, *707# upon which they will be identified together with the size of their land as captured during registration. They will be prompted to select the type of commodity they need, for instance planting fertiliser. They pay via a mobile phone and receive an e-voucher in the form of an SMS for presentation to the officers in charge of distribution.
Farmers can only get fertiliser depending on their acreage. For instance, a farmer with one care piece of land can only buy two bags. Those who have not registered can do so through the assistant chiefs and chiefs.
Mr Gachagua asked the officers to work with everyone in the rolling out of the fertilizer project without any form of discrimination.
On the other hand, the Chairman of the Council of Governors Agriculture Committee Kenneth Lusaka announced full support for the programme saying they will ensure deserving farmers benefit.
“We will encourage decentralization of the collection units to ensure the fertilizers reach the farmers who deserve it most,” said Lusaka, also Bungoma Governor.